Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Lawyer Accused of Bullying

Lawyer’s Conduct at Deposition Leads To Ethics Complaint

Here’s a lesson from Risk Management 101: being polite and professional isn’t just a nice idea – it might keep you from getting reported to the bar. 

A corollary: avoid the urge to threaten to have opposing counsel’s “rear end sanctioned” for making objections at a deposition.

A case in point is this ethics proceeding in Florida, where the Florida Bar has accused a defense lawyer of professional misconduct. Among the allegations in the ethics complaint:

  • The attorney’s tone of questioning at a deposition was “aggressive and intimidating toward the witness” and “insinuated that the judge would throw the [witness] in jail for lying.”
  • The witness was questioned in a manner that “served no substantial purpose other than to intimidate, embarrass, and humiliate.”
  • The lawyer threatened criminal charges “solely to obtain an advantage in the pending civil matter.”
  • The attorney had an “unprofessional and hostile verbal exchange” with another lawyer.
  • The attorney threatened to “call the judge, and I’ll have your rear end sanctioned.”

Read the ethics complaint here.

Read about this case in the ABA Journal, as well as here and here.

Stay on top of the latest developments in ethics and professionalism by being insured with Lawyers Mutual. Our email newsletter “Practice Reimagined” offers timely tips, pointers and valuable links to help you navigate the new normal.


NC Rule of Professional Conduct 0.1 – Preamble: A Lawyers Responsibilities

[1] A lawyer, as a member of the legal profession, is a representative of clients, an officer of the legal system, and a public citizen having special responsibility for the quality of justice.

[5] A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers, and public officials.

[8] The legal profession is a group of people united in a learned calling for the public good. At their best, lawyers assure the availability of legal services to all, regardless of ability to pay, and as leaders of their communities, states, and nation, lawyers use their education and experience to improve society.

[10] Many of a lawyer’s professional responsibilities are prescribed in the Rules of Professional Conduct, as well as substantive and procedural law. However, a lawyer is also guided by personal conscience and the approbation of professional peers. A lawyer should strive to attain the highest level of skill, to improve the law and the legal profession, and to exemplify the legal profession’s ideals of public service.

[12] Within the framework of these Rules, however, many difficult issues of professional discretion can arise. Such issues must be resolved through the exercise of sensitive professional and moral judgment guided by the basic principles underlying the Rules. These principles include the lawyer's obligation zealously to protect and pursue a client's legitimate interests, within the bounds of the law, while maintaining a professional, courteous and civil attitude toward all persons involved in the legal system.

[13] Although a matter is hotly contested by the parties, a lawyer should treat opposing counsel with courtesy and respect. The legal dispute of the client must never become the lawyer’s personal dispute with opposing counsel. A lawyer, moreover, should provide zealous but honorable representation without resorting to unfair or offensive tactics. The legal system provides a civilized mechanism for resolving disputes, but only if the lawyers themselves behave with dignity. A lawyer’s word to another lawyer should be the lawyer’s bond.


Jay Reeves is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Now he writes and speaks at CLEs, keynotes and in-firm presentations on lawyer professionalism and well-being. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers add purpose, profits and peace of mind to their practices. Contact or 919-619-2441.


About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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